Every 7 minutes…a child is bullied.
The following is the best kept secret in parenting: There is a very big difference between hearing your child talk and actually listening, I mean really listening, to what she has to say.
There is a very big difference between simply answering a question that is asked of us and slowing down to consider why the question was asked in the first place.
It is our job to listen. It is our job to slow down and consider the information presented. It is our job to be the safe haven so that our children have someone to count on. It is our job to listen to their concerns without judgment or repercussions and help them through the difficult times. It is our job to be there for them.
What if your child tried to tell you something horrible, something almost unspeakable, but you were too concerned about bills, dishes, laundry, or cooking to really listen to her concerns?
What if you did listen to her innermost fears but decided that she should work out on her own?
What if you thought she was just being manipulative, dramatic, or a little too concerned about what others think?
What if you thought that telling her to be tough and get through it was the best you could do?
What if you didn’t know what to do so you sat back and did nothing at all?
What if your child felt alone, isolated, and hopeless?
What if she begged and pleaded to stay home because she couldn’t handle one more day, but you said no?
What if she took her life?
Ashlynn Conner is the most recent child to make this tragic, and very permanent, decision. The 10 year old honor student took her life late last week after enduring bullying both at her school and within her community in east central Illinois. While her mother was aware of the bullying, she didn’t know what to do. She hoped that encouraging her would help her remain strong enough to walk away from it. Ashlynn ended her life one day after her mother refused Ashlynn’s request for homeschooling. Her sibling found her hanging by a scarf in her closet.
Ashlynn is not alone.
28-32% of students age 12-18 admit to be being bullied.
Those are just the students willing to admit it. How many others fear coming forward? Anonymous reporting doesn’t always feel as safe as it is intended to be when a student is being repeatedly bullied by identifiable targets.
Bullying is an epidemic.
It is estimated that adults only intervene 4% of the time.
We have to do better. We have to listen to our children. We have to empathize with them and then make a plan. We have to stop telling them to ignore the bully and start taking action. We have to know the facts and understand the link between bullying and suicide.
We have to know that Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts, physical illness, and increased school absence are all symptoms of being bullied.
We have to be involved. We have to be that resource for our children, that one person who never turns them away. We have to vow to do better than 4%.
And if they miss a day of school while we try to figure out a way to help them through this? We have to recognize that that is not the end of the world, but suicide is.
Suicide can be prevented. Bullying can be stopped. But only if we all take a stand together. We need to stop blaming and start teaching. We need to help our children learn to co-exist without hatred, bullying, and fear.
We need to stand up and shout, “Enough is enough!”
Please join me in talking about bullying, educating others, and standing up against bullies. At the very least, please head over to Facebook and join the nearly 100,000 people who have “spoken up” and signed the pledge to date.
We all have a role to play if we want to put an end to bullying and start saving these young lives.
What role will you play?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can also be found on Twitter.
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